I awake. It’s cold. I see Lupine’s head is still tucked under her sleeping quilt. I’m relieved. I’m not ready to wake up. I tuck my head back under my quilt.
We originally planned to rise early To make up from lost time yesterday, from our venture to Yosemite Valley. But we clearly are not hardcore, dawn dashing, mile crushing thru-hikers. I’m okay with that. My bed is comfy. Last night was the first night with my new pad, a simple foam pad. The previous two nights were spent sleeping on a pile of clothes like a dog.
When I notice Lupine’s head stick out from her sleeping quilt, she says “I signed my shares”. She just got an urgent message last night from her employer. They just secured more funding and are issuing more shares to the employees, but she needed to sign by the end of the week. We’re lucky we were in Tuolumne for an extra day and that she has a tiny bit of phone service. Otherwise we’d be gone past the weekend.
When we get up, I stack my gear on the picnic table and pack it into my bag. I say to Lupine, “it’s going to be a good day. I’m just going to put that out into the world”.
The past couple days have been rough with my ongoing, intermittent sciatic pain, and excursion into the valley to replace my broken mat. But, I’m convinced our luck is going to turn around. I was given hope and optimism by the couple who gave us a ride last night. It’s the turning of our luck.
We finish packing our bags, shivering in the cold and then venture to the base of Lambert Done, where we cook breakfast in the sun on a picnic table. It’s a beautiful morning in Tuolumne with the granite dome, behind us absorbing the sunshine.
The parking lot appears to be full of climbers. I kind of envy them in the comfort of their decked out camper Vans and Sprinter Vans. Maybe instead of a house, that’s what we should buy. If you look at them as a car purchase, they’re expensive. But if they’re a house, it’s a great deal.
We chat with our fellow hikers we saw in the valley last night. A strange man is getting pictures of thru hikers, for a book I gather, based on eavesdropping. Lupine and I lay low cooking breakfast, evading his radar.
After breakfast we head down trail. It winds through the middle of the meadow, giving a view of the stone domes and peaks that surround it. There’s nothing like the Yosemite high country. The Tuolumne river meanders calmly through the bright green meadow. Thus is one of my favorite places on earth. There’s a sense of tranquility that’s welcome to us. After several testing days, and a struggling stretch through the Sierras, this is what we need.
We walk through soda springs, watching water bubble, then checkout Parsons cabin. After that we reconnect to the PCT, winding through the trees on a pleasant path of dirt and pine needles. We follow along the side of the Tuolumne river as it and us cross over sheets of granite, riding from the river to dome. We could walk to the top but we don’t have time.
We stop to talk to a gentleman with a large pack and he asks how much our packs weigh. We’re unsure as we haven’t weighed them recently. We tell him about our trip and he asks us what inspired us to do such a thing, suck a long hike. We’re silent as we consider this. I raise my shoulders, “because we can I guess” I say. I explain that we had a window of opportunity to do it this year, so we wanted to try it. We craved a change of perspective, outside the norm, one surrounded by nature, where you can feel the elements and watch the landscape change. We wanted to feel in touch with the world. He gets it. We wish eachother well then depart in different directions.
As we walk along the trail we cross beautiful wooden bridges, and skip along granite steps. The Tuolumne river beside us, is our comrade, and then it flows over a cliff. The water is spectacular. There are several falls at different levels, each equally beautiful and impressive. We stop to watch at each one then stop for a snack at the very bottom of the falls where the water pools then flows onward, as if nothing ever happened, as if the water hadn’t just hurled itself over a granite cliff.
We sit and admire the unpredictable beauty of water flowing and cascading. It hits a large stone and the stream splits in half, erupting on either side. Another layer can be seen behind the spray, water forcefully flowing over rocks. To the right it falls descending into the vast pool, then quickly recollects and continues flowing downstream. Gallons, gallons, and gallons. To the right is a smaller splinter of the river. Above the falls the water splinters, carved paths into the stone. On this side the water has made a different path, more calmly and gently cascading into the pool. We notice lush green grass alongside the falls where the mist provides hydration. The water is mesmerizing. “Fire and water” Lupine says, “both capture the human mind”. I could stare at both for hours.
I tell Lupine I plan to become a flyer fisherman just so I can stand around in beautiful places like this. I don’t care if I don’t catch any fish. They will just be the bonus. Watching the water will be my true indulgence.
Onward we go, diverging from the Tuolumne river. Through trees, and pleasant trail we hike, invigorated by the day. I said it would be a good day. I dare not to speak it out loud, but it certainly is turning out that way.
As we cross into a vast green open meadow, bordered by giant grey boulders the wind begins to blow, the sun disappear behind a cloud. It’s feeling cold. The trail splits through the meadow and we match onward looking for a place to have lunch. We stop under some trees, fill our water from a creek, and pull on our coats. We nibble on tortillas and pork. Then move onto tortillas and hazelnut almond spread. We finish lunch off with a cup of tea. Green for me. Earl grey for Lupine. Each of our favorites.
A hiker passes by, “how’s it going” he asks. “Cold” Lupine responds. “You too?” He says continuing walking.
The forecast in Tuolumne had a low of 19 degrees listed tonight. On my Garmin, the forecast had a low of 25. Either way, that’s cold, and given the air temps now I believe it. As we hike we add gear then remove it as we climb and warm up from the sun.
We cross paths again with the cold hiker near a stream. He’s sitting nearby getting water. “Am I in your way” he asks. “No”, and I skip by on the rocks. Lupine and I fill our water as well and talk to the man as he eats a snack. His name is Clydesdale and when he asks why he says maybe cause he’s big and stupid, and likes beer. “Clydesdales like beer?” Lupine says, and I say “yeah, Budweiser.”
Our fellow hiker is originally from Truckee. We chat about the trail and life, and freedom – all common topics on the trail. Then we continue forward. We have two camp options. A camp next to Spiller Creek in about 3 miles or Matterhorn Creek in about 8. The latter would make for about a 20 mile day which we’re eager to go for, but given the weather were inclined to stop sooner. That way we don’t need to cook in the cold.
So we descend downward through a forest, skip over a couple creeks, climb upward on granite stones then walk along Spiller Creek, eventually finding several campsites. With the clouds looking dark and the air getting cold, we conclude this is indeed where we will stay tonight.
Lupine cooks us dinner as I setup the tent. We eat our favorite meal, chicken curry, then have a nightcap of hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps. Its delightful, and quickly becoming a new tradition. Tiny snow flakes begin to fall as the clouds blowing overhead become dark.
After dinner we crawl into bed. It’s early, only 6:30. But I won’t complain. We pull on our every layer, preparing for the cold of the night. For now we are toasty warm underneath our sleeping quilts. We hear the snow begin to fall on our tent, and I can see it settle on the ground outside.
Today has been a good day. Tonight will be good as well. And, I have a good feeling about tomorrow as well.